The Latest: Thousands in Florida shelters set up in schools

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MIAMI >> The Latest on Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Nicole (all times local):

6:30 a.m.

Officials say some 3,000 people have already checked into shelters in Florida ahead of Hurricane Matthew's approach.

According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, 48 shelters are already providing refuge for 3,015 people in Florida. Another 13 special needs shelters are already housing 31 people.

The shelters are all in schools in areas where evacuations — either mandatory or voluntary — are underway. The Florida counties include Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Glades, Martin, Duval and Brevard.

Special needs shelters are designed to aid people with disabilities. Shelters are listed at floridadisaster.org.

6:10 a.m.

The murder trial of a man accused of intentionally leaving his toddler son in a hot SUV to die is being put on hold as Hurricane Matthew heads toward the Georgia coast where the man's being prosecuted.

Local news organizations report a judge said the trial of Justin Ross Harris would be in recess Thursday and Friday and resume Monday.

Prosecutors have said Harris intentionally killed his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by leaving him for hours in a vehicle parked outside the father's workplace in Cobb County near Atlanta. Cooper's lawyers say the death was accidental.

The trial was moved to Brunswick on the coast because of pretrial publicity.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday urged residents of several coastal counties, including the one where Brunswick is located, to evacuate.

5:10 a.m.

Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew has gained new muscle over the Bahamas and they are also expanding the hurricane warning area further up the Southeast Atlantic seacoast from Florida into Georgia.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Matthew's top sustained winds have risen from 115 mph (185 kph) to 125 mph (205 mph) in just a few hours early Thursday as the storm continues to batter the central Bahamas.

The center says it is extending a hurricane warning area already covering a large swath of Florida's Atlantic coast further northward to Altamaha Sound, Georgia. It also says a newly expanded hurricane watch now extends from the Altamaha Sound up the coast to the South Santee River in South Carolina.

The center added in its 5 a.m. Thursday update that Matthew should gain further in intensity over the next day or so and is forecast to become a Category 4 storm as it approaches Florida's Atlantic coast.

Matthew's center is now about 255 miles (410 kilometers) southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida, and moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph) over the Bahamas.

2 a.m.

Forecasters say Hurricane Matthew is now pounding portions of the Central Bahamas and is expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew remains a powerful Category 3 storm with top sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) as of 2 a.m. EDT Thursday. It added that Matthew is expected to intensify over the next day or so and is forecast to again become a dangerous Category 4 hurricane as it nears Florida's Atlantic coast.

Matthew was briefly a very dangerous Category 5 storm on its march across the Caribbean. By early Thursday, Matthew was centered about 295 miles (480 kilometers) southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida. It also was about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas.

The Miami forecasting center said no changes have been made to the existing hurricane and tropical storm warnings and watches as of 2 a.m. EDT.


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